24 March 2015


'Place Branding' or 'Destination Branding' is an important tool in communicating your area identity to a wider audience of visitors, tourists, potential residents and investors. Successful place branding will strengthen positive perceptions and can correct negative perceptions about the city or region your council governs. Signage that is dated, of poor quality or beginning to physically deteriorate will send a strong message in the wrong direction.

During periods of amalgamation or when there is a need to strengthen local economies, re-branding becomes a pressing question. The project will require investment and councils need value for their money.

A brand experience involves many points of contact; this article will focus on the important .aspect of signage. Over the last decade Danthonia Designs has assisted over 70 councils nationwide in the design and/or supply of brand signage. Here are a few thoughts that may be helpful in planning your next project:

Choose a logo that works.

Do you have a good logo? If not, get it done right. This is not the place to 'save money' with a contest at a local school - nor should a logo be 'assembled by committee' where differing aesthetic opinions may exist.

Start by collecting samples of world class corporate or government logos that your decision makers like. Then go to professional graphic designers and ask for something with a similar look that meets your specific branding needs. A good logo is the visual starting point for successful branding across all areas of visual marketing -- printed matter, garments, advertisement, vehicle graphics, websites, signage and the like. Note: A logo that works well as a ghosted image on your website may not be possible to produce as a 3D sculpture. The designer of your logo should be made aware of all intended uses so your logo is designed to work well in every application.

Gladstone Regional Council QLD
Sign System, 120+ signs

Gladstone Regional Council commissioned a sign system for all borders, town entries and government buildings. A three-metre tall monument was the 'flagship' entry statement upon which all other designs were based. We took this project from design through completion, including management of all installation.

Gladstone Regional Council entry sign

Gladstone Regional Council border sign

Gladstone Regional Council community centre sign

View more signs here.

Implement a signage plan.

Once a strong and versatile logo is established, its application to signage is potentially the most widely noticed element of your place branding project. Remember the wise old saying about 'a good first impression'? Ask the question: What do people see and think as they first drive into your city or shire?

Plan in concentric circles. Place appropriate signage at your boundaries - then work your way in - identifying town and village entrances. Following your entry statements, consideration should be given to council buildings, parks and way-finding. Destination branding is a total experience - and a harmonious family of well-presented and well-functioning sign systems is an important part of making that experience a positive one.

Start with a signage audit.

Planning a signage system starts with a signage audit. What signs do you currently have in place? Are additional signs needed? What are the best locations? Will these locations be approved by your state road authority? During the inspection of potential sign sites note the speed of traffic, maximum viewing distance and minimum reading distance required. This information will help your sign designer to scale your signs correctly - too small could be unreadable while too large will be overpriced.

Upper Hunter Shire NSW
Entry Sign System, 36 signs

The Upper Hunter Shire Council required a sign system to welcome visitors to their various towns. Council's brief to us was to create signs that would promote their region, famous for raising thoroughbred racehorses. We created a system of entry signs that offered individual artwork  for each town while holding to a rustic ‘horse farm theme’ throughout the system. We handled all the aspects of the project from sign design through delivery, providing templates, hardware and technical support for client installation.

Upper Hunter Shire Council welcome sign

Scone town entry sign

Blandford town entry sign

View more signs here.

Know what your signs need to do.

Each sign is a tool. Decide exactly what you need each of these 'tools' to accomplish and communicate that to your sign designer. Some signs will specifically market a destination while others help tourists get from point A to point B. If a sign has a clearly defined task it is easier to evaluate the design suggestions in an objective way.

Think through your 'signage hierarchy.' Which signs should be the largest and most impressive? Which signs can be smaller and more modest? These decisions will impact your budget and help you to invest your money where it will do the most good.

Plan ahead

If the total cost of your signage may require implementation in phases over a period of time. Try to get the entire sign system designed and approved upfront. Many regions suffer from a piecemeal approach to signage where a number of suppliers have over a period of years erected signage of all styles and description. This sends a message of disorder and hurt your brand experience.

During the design process ask your designer to show how your new signs will look in important locations by using photo editing software to create 'before and after' pictures. These images will also help you in deciding on the scale for your sign, in proportion to buildings/landmarks, so the sign will have sufficient visual impact at a given location while avoiding expensive overkill.

Value for money

When deciding on a supplier, look for return on investment. Is the design world-class? Will it enhance your brand experience? Will it serve to build local pride, impact tourism and/or investment in the area? What is the ‘lifetime cost’ of the signage itself? How will it look after 10 years? Does the supplier have experience in this specialty work? Do you like the sign systems they have created for other councils? Do their past clients recommend them?

Moree Plains Shire
Entry Sign System, 50 signs

Moree Plains Shire Council required fresh, eye-catching and innovative entry signs along their major highways, regional roads and entrances to towns and villages. Council also required signage that would direct visitors to the Moree Airport and the major tourist attraction of the Artesian Spa Baths Complex.

We created designs that explored the use of their logo as a destination brand, creating entry signs that expressed the individuality of each area while maintaining continuity of the shire theme. We are implementing this project in 6 stages. To date, we have installed the signs in stages 1, 2, 4 & 5. They clearly and attractively signpost the region's town, village and shire entry points.

Moree Plains Shire Entry Statement

Garah village entry sign

Pallamallawa town entry sign


View more signs here.

In Summary

Successful place brand signage pays back. On the contrary, a poorly executed project will work against your brand experience for years to come. Work with people that your council trusts and discussion over details will be minimised. Leverage your sign suppliers experience and skills to fulfil your council goals with a minimum of work and worry on your part.

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